Intelligent Non-split Mixing Decisions: A Value-Engineering Tool Applied to Flour Mills
Many manufacturing processes involve using a multitude of intermediate products to make a few final products. The decision regarding which intermediate products go to make which final product involves engineering the value of the final products with respect to several properties and the amounts. Even when each property “mixes linearly,” this decision is complex in cases where no mathematical function is known for the relationship between the value of a product and its properties. The complexity of a tool to support this decision making is further aggravated in cases where an intermediate product cannot contribute to more than one final product, e.g. due to mechanical limitations, process constraints, logistics restrictions, or traceability considerations. For this situation, an interactive decision-support tool is developed, and applied to the sensitive example of flour mills, where up to 80 intermediate products, 6 final products, and 6 properties are involved during continuous mixing of flours. The tool allows the head miller to flexibly specify the feasible space in the dimensions of decision variables, properties, and amounts. For any change in this specification, the tool computes and presents without prohibitive time lag a convenient overview of all relevant non-inferior solutions, to facilitate selection of a particular solution. The head miller makes specifications and selects a solution for one final product at a time, usually starting with the most valuable product, but can iterate back to any product at will. Better and more reliable mixing decisions are achieved with the support of the tool.
KeywordsDecision support systems Intelligent manufacturing Discrete-event systems Systems modelling and simulation Logistics engineering Cost and value engineering Production planning Quality control and management Performance evaluation and optimization Human-system interface
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